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Coach's Corner: Auburn vs Arkansas State

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Coach’s Corner: Auburn vs Arkansas State

Auburn (0-1, 0-0) hosts Arkansas State (0-1, 0-0) this week. Auburn is coming off a disappointing loss to #2 Clemson, while ASU lost their opener at home to the Toledo Rockets in a game that wasn’t really close. Bottom line, Arkansas State did not look good in their opening game, which was a little surprising since they’d won the Sun Belt Conference title 4 of the past 5 years, and added a number of quality transfers over the off season.

Head Coach Blake Anderson is in his third year there, following a period when the Red Wolves were losing their coach after every season. Among the one-year head coaches there were Auburn’s Gus Malzahn and Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze. Before taking the ASU job, Anderson spent four years on Larry Fedora’s staff at both Southern Miss and North Carolina as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Keeping in mind that recent head coaches at Arkansas State included Malzahn and Freeze, it’s remarkable that Anderson has been able to set school records in most offensive categories, including total offense and average yards per game.

ASU Offense….

All five starters return on the offensive line. They are solid in pass protection, but in Game One, were unable to sustain much offensively. They have two  transfers at quarterback in Chad Voytik (6-1, 215, Sr) and Justice Hansen (6-4, 210, Soph). Voytik, a graduate transfer from Pitt, is the starter. He’s a solidly built, fairly athletic QB who was beaten out for the starting job at Pitt and chose to exercise his graduate transfer option. Although he didn’t play especially well in the opener, he’s impressed the staff in practice and got the nod over Hansen, who is probably the better pure passer.

In their opening game, the Red Wolves were unable to mount much of a running game, opting for lots of formations and pass attempts. The starting running back is sophomore Warren Wand (5-5, 179). He’s backed up primarily by JUCO transfer Armond Weh-Weh (6-0, 200). Both will play.

I am not going to try to analyze the stats from ASU’s opening game. As we know very well, there are tons of circumstances that affect play-calling and even execution in a single game, especially an opener.

ASU Defense….

Defensive Coordinator Joe Cauthen is in his third year at Arkansas State. In 2015, his defense led the nation in both defensive touchdowns (8) and interceptions (26). They were second in total takeaways, with 34. Cauthen calls his base defense a 3-3 nickel, although vs Toledo, they walked up a LB to present in essence a four-man front. They are a little reminiscent of Joe Lee Dunn’s “Grits Blitz” when he was with the Atlanta Falcons, in that they’ll line up in different places, sometimes with defensive linemen in a two-point stance, and they bring pressure most of the time. Their basic premise is to create big defensive plays, even at the risk of giving up a big play to the offense.

The most notable physical feature of the ASU defense is nose tackle Waylon Roberson, a 6-2, 341-lb. senior. Defensive tackle Robert Mondie is 6-2, 321, and a senior. One-time Auburn commit Dee Liner (6-3, 295, Jr.) started at DT vs Toledo. Liner played in a total of 4 games in two years at Alabama before being processed to Arkansas State.

Probably the best of the defensive linemen is end Ja’Von Rolland-Jones, who led the team in 2015 with 9 sacks.

ASU Special Teams….

Kicker J.D. Houston hit on 12-of-14 field goal attempts last season. His range, at least to date, has been around 40 yards. He was one-for-one last week, making good on a 43-yard attempt.  The Wolves lost their punter to graduation, and used two in the opener. Redshirt freshman Damon Foncham (5-9, 196) punted 5 times for a 42 yard average, while wide receiver Cameron Echols-Luper kicked twice for a 38-yard average.

ASU has some dangerous return men in both Blaise Taylor, who returned both a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns last year, and Cameron Echols-Luper, who was one of the top return men in the Big 12 Conference at TCU before transferring to Arkansas State. Taylor and Luper are the sons of former Auburn coaches Trooper Taylor and Curtis Luper respectively. Trooper Taylor is cornerbacks coach and Assistant Head Coach at Arkansas State, while Curtis Luper is in his 4th year as running backs coach at TCU.

How Will They Play It?….

Tough to guess what ASU will try to do offensively. They were roughly 60-40 last week, but only averaged 3.7 yards per rush. Whether that means they’ll be the same this week, or try to avoid Auburn’s stout defensive front by throwing more, is anybody’s guess. My guess is that they’ll feel like they need to throw the ball more, but they very well may choose to grind the ball and run the clock to shorten the game. I suspect Auburn’s defense will show major improvement this week, and running the ball against that front 6 could be pretty difficult.

Defensively, Joe Cauthen and the ASU defense are going to do what they do. That’s line up all over the place and try to bring pressure, both on the quarterback, and the Auburn running game. They play lots of man in the secondary, which could be problematic for them if Auburn gets its running game going.

I’m not going to strain the few brain cells I have left trying to figure out what Auburn’s offensive plan will be. After last week, I’ve concluded there’s no way to anticipate Gus Malzahn’s plan. Against the ASU schemes, it would seem prudent to run the ball primarily, but Auburn absolutely needs to sharpen its passing game as it looks forward to upcoming games against Texas A&M and LSU. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Defensively, I’d expect Kevin Steele to play lots of base defense, trying to establish play-to-play consistency across the board. When you have the players, it’s about executing play after play, and Auburn has the players on defense. ASU runs a lot of screen plays, especially tunnel screens. With Auburn’s excellent pursuit, they should be in good position to defend those.

I’m not going to try to build up the importance of this game. To think Auburn doesn’t need to play at a high level this week is not logical. We are about to enter the meat of the SEC schedule, and now is the time to get things timed out and establish consistency of execution. In the games after this one, there is very little margin for error. Time is now, to play hard, play smart, and get better.

    

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9 minutes ago, JMR said:

Time is now, to play hard, play smart, and get better.

I could not agree more - let's get after their butts, Auburn!

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Glad to hear they throw a lot of bubble screens and such. Those have killed us in the post-Tuberville era. This has also been the kind of game that had "coming out party for unkown QB to never be heard from again" during that same time. Would love to put both of those tendencies to bed early and with authority Saturday night. 

Also glad to hear they have a wide variety of blitzes they use. Could be a good way to work on some things that will be more difficult to execute down the road.

Trooper and Blaise Taylor, Cameron Echols-Luper and Dee Liner... I'll be damned. 

Edit: Thanks for the post, Coach!

Edited by McLoofus

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Wasn't Hansen one of the QBs recruited by Auburn before we decided on Franklin?

 

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As a result of the meltdowns after our 6 point loss to #2, Gus' relations with some fans apparently cannot afford even less than anhilation of the Red Wolves. Al.com, ESPN, Finebaum et al are no doubt licking their chops for an Auburn D letdown or more of the same on O. On paper Arky State's result against Toledo is bizarre - as the narrative above states, Red Wolves won their conference 4 of the last 5 seasons, returned most key players and have a solid transfer QB at their disposal. Seniors recruited by Gus to Jonesboro may use his one & done there as feaux motivation - in any event there's more to motivate them on the Plains than against the Toledo Rockets. No doubt we will be trying many things on O different from last week which is scary in its own right and turnovers for any team in such scenarios are common.

Okay enough with the Eor rhetoric, just take care of business.

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I expect our defense to shut them down.  I hope they don't even make it across the 50.  Our offense..... we must establish a running QB.  RBs taking snaps is good, but it does not resolve this need.  I don't see how Sean White fills this role, but I want to be wrong.  What Jackson did last night is what we need.  Confidence, courage and a spirit that is not afraid. We need to do more than win.  We must send notice to A&M and LSU for the next 2 weeks.  In my opinion, if we lose either of these games, then any chance to play in Atlanta is lost.  War Eagle!

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On 9/8/2016 at 9:35 AM, McLoofus said:

Glad to hear they throw a lot of bubble screens and such. Those have killed us in the post-Tuberville era. This has also been the kind of game that had "coming out party for unkown QB to never be heard from again" during that same time. Would love to put both of those tendencies to bed early and with authority Saturday night. 

Also glad to hear they have a wide variety of blitzes they use. Could be a good way to work on some things that will be more difficult to execute down the road.

Trooper and Blaise Taylor, Cameron Echols-Luper and Dee Liner... I'll be damned. 

Edit: Thanks for the post, Coach!

DeeLiner..ha.

 

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